0

Book Review! A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

Holy cow. Is it possible for me to give a book more than five stars? Well, I don’t care. This gets six. 

When I first picked this up and started reading, it’d been so long since I finished Book 1 that I got about a chapter in and decided that I’d better go back and re-read ACOTAR to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. The re-read reminded me that while ACOTAR was good, I hadn’t given it a raving 5-star review. So I went back to A Court of Mist and Fury with slightly lower expectations. And then I finished the book in about four hours (and it only took me that long because I lingered over some of the more *ahem* “fun” passages.) And I’ve already re-read it once!

First things first, if ACOTAR is the only Sarah J. Maas book you’ve read and you’re thinking, “oh, this is YA, it won’t be deep or or dark or controversial” … THIS IS NOT THAT YA. Although Feyre and others were tortured Under the Mountain and Feyre made it perfectly clear throughout the book that she was not a virgin, things were fairly tame in ACOTAR. Now we’re in adult territory. Get-yourself-a-glass-of-water-or-maybe-even-a-cold-shower adult territory. And it’s glorious.

The Beauty and the Beast re-telling aspect of ACOTAR was a big part of why I didn’t fall head-over-heels for this series at first. You know how the story ends, so while it’s a different take on the story, there’s only so much that can surprise you. A Court of Mist and Fury, however, proves that any sort of re-telling that was going on was just a jumping-off point. A way to get everyone on board and lulled in to a place where they thought they knew what was going on. Then the characters and the consequences of their time Under the Mountain take over and the fairy tale evaporates like the mist the title suggests.

Because its so hard to review this book spoiler-free, I’m going to stay away from discussing the actual plot, except to say that the ending is AMAZING. And twisty. I can’t wait a full year for book 3! I’m fully on-board with everything that Maas has written and I can’t remember ever having a book-hangover this severe.

Oh, and I will say that, per my previous review, we do indeed see more of Rhysand 😉

In more general terms, one of the things that I love best about Maas is her ability to take standard plot mechanics and story lines and make them real and believable on a whole new level. Every character has their own backstory that actually seems to drive their choices, they aren’t just there to provide a bad guy or a helping hand at the right moment. You don’t have to worry about an overdone YA love triangle or ridiculous insta-love; just like real life, for each relationship that lasts you get relationships that fizzle out, relationships where no one wants to take a chance so they never progress past the flirting-and-longing-glances stage, and relationships that break. Maas isn’t afraid to break your heart (or her character’s limbs) but that reality is what makes you feel the story.

A Court of Mist and Fury has jumped straight to my Favorite Books of All Time category, and I can’t wait to see what Maas has in store for us next!

Advertisements
0

My 2016 TBR List (so far)

I discovered a lot of great new (and just new-to-me) authors and series last year, and to my delight most of them have more books coming out this year! There are also some long-loved authors that are adding to some of my all-time favorite series (I’m looking at you, Garth Nix) which makes me deliriously happy. So, here’s what I KNOW I’ll be reading in 2016 🙂 I’ve organized them roughly by date of publication, although as we all know, those dates are still flexible, particularly for the titles that are set to release in the second half of the year…

Books that are ready to release:

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman – The official US publication date is today (1/26/16) but I believe it was released in the UK market last month. I read an excerpt of The Dark Days Club in the Spring 2016 Penguin Sampler, and I really liked it! I haven’t read anything else by Alison Goodman, but the concept of the story is something I thought I’d enjoy – Victorian young lady trying to fit in to society, secrets, and paranormal happenings – this reminds me strongly of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, but with a less flippant tone and no silly slang. I’ve requested it on NetGalley and Edelweiss, but if that doesn’t happen I’ll be buying this for myself 🙂

A Criminal Magic

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly – Coming February 2, 2016. The publisher’s blurb on this is “The Night Circus meets Peaky Blinders.” How can you say no to that?!? It has pretty good reviews thus far on Goodreads, so I’m excited to get my hands on it! This one I’ll buy, because I wasn’t able to get an ARC 😦

The Alchemy of Chaos (Maradaine, #2)

The Alchemy of Chaos by Marshall Ryan Maresca – Also out February 2, 2016. I just got access to this on NetGalley today! I haven’t read book 1 of the Maradaine series yet (The Thorn of Dentonhill) so I went and bought that on my Nook so I can read them back-to-back 🙂 I read Maresca’s A Murder of Mages last year, which is also set in Maradaine but is a different series with some overlapping characters, and I loved it, so I’m excited to read both of these!

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – Out May 3, 2016. I’ll probably pre-order this at some point, because I’m not a big enough blogger to get an advance copy of such a popular series! I really enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I am absolutely ready to see more of Rhysand 😉 Of her two series, I definitely prefer the Throne of Glass books just because I find the world-building and plot more original, but for a fairytale re-telling (which seem to be saturating the YA market over the past year or two) this series is among the best! Basically you can’t go wrong with Sarah J. Maas.

Tall Tail (Mrs. Murphy, #25)

Tall Tail by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown – Out May 17, 2016. This is the 25th book in this series, and I’ve been reading them since probably middle school (I was a precocious kid – probably not surprising, right?) The last couple of books have been shorter and haven’t had the same spark as the earlier books, in my opinion. That said, this entire series is one of my all-time favorites and is the epitome of a “cozy” mystery. Plus it’s set in Crozet, Virginia, which is practically local to me since we bought our house in NoVA 🙂 This is already in my NetGalley queue, so a review should be posted close to the release date!

Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2)

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley – Oh my god. Finally! Available June 14, 2016. What can I say about this that I haven’t already said in one of my many, many anticipatory blog posts, except that I reaaaaaally hope this publication date stays final. My poor mind can’t handle any more delays. I will be stalking the internet for an advance copy, but if that doesn’t happen you know I’ll be pre-ordering it come around May, and I’ll buy the paperback version once that comes out too, so I can easily lend it out to those who haven’t yet discovered the amazingness that is the Chequy.

The Shadow Hour (The Girl at Midnight, #2)

The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey – Available July 12, 2016. I loved The Girl at Midnight, but it didn’t end in any sort of super-cliffhanger, so it will be interesting to see where Grey takes the series next!

Books without covers (yet):

Throne of Glass #5 by Sarah J. Maas – Should be out around September 2016. As I said earlier, Sarah J. Maas can do no wrong in my book, and this series just keeps getting better and better, so I’m absolutely ready for the next installment. Keep an eye out on Goodreads for an actual title and cover release and to confirm the publication date.

The Song Rising (Bone Season #3) by Samantha Shannon – Out around November 2016. This is probably the book I’m anticipating most in all of 2016, tied with Stiletto. The ending of The Mime Order *killed* me, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Shannon is an amazing writer and has created one of the coolest, most intricate fantasy worlds ever. Big Fan. 🙂 Again, keep an eye out for a cover release and to confirm the publication date!

Finally, we have books with no set publication date or cover, that are supposed to be out in 2016:

Abhorsen series #5 by Garth Nix – This book is about Lirael and Nick Sayre and is set after the short story The Creature in the Case, from Across the Wall, Nix’s first book of short stories. The Abhorsen series is one of my all-time favorite reads. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve re-read each book, but my paperback copy of Lirael got so battered that I bought ebooks of them all to lessen the wear and tear on my hardcopies! I bought Nix’s last book of short stories, To Hold the Bridge, and was absolutely thrilled with the Old Kingdom story that was the first entry in the book. Goodreads doesn’t have much info on Abhorsen #5, but EpicReads (from HarperCollins) also has it listed as a 2016 release, so check those two places for more info. later into the year!

An Import of Intrigue by Marshall Ryan Maresca – This is actually the sequel to A Murder of Mages, so of course I’m going to read it as soon as I possibly can (hopefully it’ll go up on NetGalley like The Alchemy of Chaos.) There’s not much to go on – no cover, no ballpark publication date, but I’m guessing it’ll be part of the fall release schedule. Check back with Goodreads if you want to keep tabs on this one!

These books alone will be a good chunk of my 2016 reading goal. What are you all most looking forward to this year – new authors or sequels/series additions? Let me know if there’s anything I should add to my list!

0

Books of 2015

Hi friends! It’s been pretty silent over here because even though I’ve been reading plenty, I’m waaaaay behind on putting up reviews. I also haven’t baked anything for ages, other than holiday pies :-/ I got a lovely espresso machine for Christmas though, so now I’m back in an espresso-fueled burst of productivity.

You may notice a slight change in the blog layout as I’ve moved the Favorites and House Tour tabs under the About Me section, to make room for a tab on my review policies. I haven’t had many inquiries, but enough that I wanted to put something down in writing. I’ve also been working behind the scenes to set up an account on Edelweiss so I can keep better track of what’s coming up for 2016 and beyond – and there’s a ton! For those looking ahead, my next post will be all about what I’m excited to get my hands on this year.

I need to update the Horrible Hound tab too, because as those of you following along on Instagram will know, we added another 4-legged member to our family right before Thanksgiving! Our new addition, Rocket (aka Tiny Terror, aka Weasel, aka Skunky) is a little over a year old and full of energy – and he’s a chewer. So there’s plenty going on at the BarksandBaking house.

 

And now, for a long overdue recap of my 2015 reads!

Badge square

You read 54 out of 75 books
72%
Better luck in 2016!

I was clearly a little overambitious when I set my 2015 reading goal. According to my Goodreads stats, I read 76 books in 2014, so I though 75 would be do-able (especially since I’ve been getting so many advance copies!) but life got busy… I’m scaling back a bit and have set my 2016 goal for 55 books, and I’m already 6 books down, so hopefully I can knock the whole list out this year.

Img totalmediumr 2xImg totalmediuml 2x

54 books           17,399 pages

MY AVERAGE RATING FOR 2015: 3.4 stars
AVERAGE LENGTH: 355 pages
My favorite reads of 2015 (in no particular order):
The Bone Season & The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
To Hold the Bridge, by Garth Nix
A Murder of Mages, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
A History of Glitter and Blood, by Hannah Moscowitz

 

 My Daylight Monsters by Sarah DaltonSHORTEST BOOK
124 pages
My Daylight Monsters

by Sarah Dalton

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

LONGEST BOOK

613 pages
Lair of Dreams

by Libba Bray
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
MOST POPULAR
1,478,543 people also read
City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
The Lost Souls Dating Agency by Suneeti Rekhari
LEAST POPULAR
29 people also read
The Lost Souls Dating Agency
by Suneeti Rekhari
Born of Betrayal by Sherrilyn Kenyon
HIGHEST RATED ON GOODREADS
Born of Betrayal
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
4.39 average

 

 

 

0

Book Review! Throne of Glass Series

Holy blog traffic, Batman! I’m sure most of you are here because of the lovely shout-out from Franish – with whom I’ve been bonding over the perfect maroon-y purple skirt from JCrew Factory. If so, you might be interested to take a peek at my favorite pieces for work casual wear, or the gym, and my makeup basics, and then please stick around for one of my favorite topics, book reviews!

 

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass Series #1)

I’ve read the first two books of the Throne of Glass series, by Sarah J. Maas, in just two days, and I’m already halfway through the third book. Yup. Hooked. This is hands-down one of the best YA fantasy series I’ve read in years. Since the series isn’t done yet, I’m not sure if it will top The Abhorsen series, by Garth Nix, or the Tortall books, by Tamora Pierce, on my list of all-time best YA books, but it’s pretty high up the list.

The publisher’s blurb on these gives you a good idea of what to expect from the books, and it’ll be hard to do a review of all three books without any spoilers, but I’ll try! Celaena Sardothien is an assassin, trained from a young age to be the best at her brutal trade. When she’s summoned from her hovel mining salt in Endovier and sent to the capitol city of the ruthless Adarlan king to compete for her freedom, she’s not sure what to expect. Almost immediately, Celaena is drawn into a scheme much larger than herself, and with no one giving her the information she seeks – or any of the truth – she has to figure things out for herself, before she winds up on the executioner’s block.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass Series #2)

One of the things I’ve truly enjoyed about this series is that Celaena is very decisive and not afraid to take action, even when she has doubts and may need to adjust her path once things heat up. Although she’s painted as a cold-blooded assassin, there are plenty of internal struggles and emotions for her to face, and ultimately she ends up being better and more mature for it. I’ve enjoyed seeing her character evolve so far over the first three books, and according to Goodreads, there are three books yet to go. (Which makes me deliriously happy. I love a good, long series!) There are also several interesting (read: not shallow) male characters and other important female characters that pop up over the course of the first three books, which gives the plot more depth and keeps things racing along quickly. No dragging, endless descriptions and boring filler scenes here!

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass Series #3)

One of the reviews published in the paperback version of Throne of Glass (book one of the series, followed by Crown of Midnight, and then Heir of Fire) that caught my eye stated that they viewed Maas’ series as a combination of Tamora Pierce and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, which I think paints a pretty good picture of where this sits in terms of fantasy works. The writing is much more direct and (overall) is less  gruesomely realistic than the Game of Thrones books (see my Goodreads reviews on those if you dare, I didn’t care for them) but also involves more politics, plotting, and death than Pierce’s books. The Throne of Glass books are broader in scope, but they remind me a bit of The Castings Trilogy, by Pamela Freeman (if you like the Throne of Glass books and fantasy in general, those might be worth a read.)

If you’ve read any of the Throne of Glass books, please let me know your thoughts! Did you devour them like I have, or were they not your cup of tea?

If you’re just popping by to check things out, I’d love it if you said Hi in the comments or maybe took a second to fill out the quick blog poll I posted recently!

(*Disclaimer: None of the links in this post are affiliate links and I am not getting anything at all from the respective companies or blogs they link to. But if JCrew, Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble ever start giving me goodies or cash, I’ll let you guys know! 🙂 )

1

Reader Survey

Hi, friends! Now that I’ve told you a little bit more about myself and my reading/reviewing style and have done my first – awesome! – blog giveaway, I want to hear from you on what you’re looking for from Barks & Baking. More photos of the Horrible Hound?

Oh, OK. I get that, after all, he puts the “Barks” in B&B 🙂

More about our daily adventures? More baking posts? (I know – I’ve totally been slacking on those, but I’ve basically been making my awesome Hazelnut Scones on repeat 🙂 ) Pretty please, take a second to answer the 4 questions below, and help me improve B&B. I’m open to comments/suggestions as well if there’s something that you think would be a particularly awesome addition to this space!

Thank you!

11

Book Review & Giveaway! – Murder at the Brightwell

Congrats to the winner of the giveaway, Laura M.!

The lovely staff over at St. Martin’s Press gave me a free copy of Murder at the Brightwell for my review.

Murder at the Brightwell: A Mystery

The publisher’s description certainly got it right with this one: “Set in 1930s Britain’s posh seaside holiday scene, Murder at the Brightwell is at once a glamorous glimpse into the past, a delightful love story, and, of course, a gripping, exciting whodunit. Drama, gossip, and mystery all abound!”

Very much in the style of Agatha Christie and Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, this book was a fun sleuthing romp through the early part of the 20th century. The heroine, Amory, is a unique mix of confidence, wit, and romantic uncertainty – the latter usually occurring when her ne’re do well husband, Milo, is concerned. Amory takes a trip to the seaside with an old flame and his friends, and as members of their party drop like flies, she simply can’t stay on the sidelines. As with any amateur sleuth, she doesn’t figure out who is perpetrating the murders until she’s made a few wrong guesses, but she does manage to impress CID’s Detective Inspector Jones along the way.

This was a charming, light read, and I’ll certainly be interested to read more books by this author!

St. Martin’s also asked if I’d like a second copy of this book to give away. Silly question, right?! This title won’t be released for sale until October 14, 2014, but for the next week you can enter to win your very own advance copy of the book, along with a few other fun items from yours truly!

As you may have seen from the sneak peek I posted here on the blog and on my Instagram, the prize package looks a little something like this:

The winner of this giveaway will receive everything they need for a good old-fashioned afternoon tea:

  • A paperback advance copy of Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • A book full of tasty “afternoon tea” recipes (I’ll admit, I was tempted to keep this for myself, the little cookies and sandwiches in here look awesome!)
  • A patterned tea cup from Anthropologie (I got the blue/green version for myself, and chose the orange to give away because I thought it went nicely with the cover of the book)
  • A (sealed) container of my favorite tea – Earl Grey Crème from Giant foods – which is an Earl Grey tea with a vanilla-y creaminess to it. I’m usually a milk and sugar girl when it comes to Earl Grey, but this works nicely without any milk or sugar, as it already has a little sweetness to it.

To enter the giveaway, click on the Rafflecopter link below (it may take a second or two to load). Then, you can get up to two entries, by either a) leaving a comment below that answers the prompt or b) following/subscribing to my blog (please make sure to enter the username you use to follow/subscribe, because I will verify this before I mail the prizes to the winner!) Or you can do both and get 2 bites at the apple 🙂 The giveaway will accept entries until midnight on Friday, August 22nd** and I will select a winner at random. The winner will be announced on the blog on August 23rd and I will provide an email address so the winner can send me their contact info.

Thanks so much for entering – Good luck!

(This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to winner Laura M.!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* A little disclaimer – The copy of Murder at the Brightwell for this giveaway was provided by St. Martin’s Press, but all other items were purchased by me. The links on the book title and photo go to Barnes & Noble simply because they are my favorite bookstore, but they are not sponsoring/affiliated with me in any way.

** I’m hoping that’s correct, and I didn’t somehow screw this up, but it’s my very first giveaway, so if there are any issues, I beg in advance for your patience. Thanks!

0

Coming Soon – Things I Can’t Wait For!

Hey there my wonderful readers, long time no post! (blushes awkwardly) Whoops.

I’ve been busy reading through many, many books for you, so you might wonder why there haven’t been any new posts recently. Well, most of the books I’ve read over the past 2 months aren’t available to purchase until mid-August or later, and the publishers asked that I hold my reviews until closer to the publication date – which I’m happy to do. I mean, there’s no use tormenting you with books you can’t get, and they’re giving me the books for free, so I’m not going to complain! Instead, I wrote the reviews while they were fresh in my mind and just set a reminder in my calendar for the dates when I want to publish each review.

But, speaking of being tormented with things you can’t have, I thought I’d share with you some of the books and authors I’ve been stalking. There are several books that I check up on just about every week, just so I can make sure to get them ASAP!

Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen

Clariel by Garth Nix -This title should become available on October 14, 2014 and I am literally counting the days. The Old Kingdom series has always been one of my absolute favorites. My copy of Lirael is so battered that the first few chapters have separated from the rest of the book. The only reason that Sabriel isn’t every bit as bad is that I lent it out to someone ages ago (no idea who…) and never got it back, and then I re-purchased it as an ebook when I couldn’t get to a bookstore. I love the series enough that I’m going to buy Clariel in hardcover and I’ll probably repurchase the paperback version of Sabriel too, if I ever run across it. The publisher’s description makes this book sound amazing and is the story of a character who pops up in previous books. I don’t want to give too much away, because if you know who the character is it’s a huge spoiler because you know how they end up! It sounds like Nix has gone in a rather different, interesting direction with this one – I’ll definitely review this as soon as I read it!

Stiletto: A Novel

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley – This is a sequel to O’Malley’s absolutely awesome debut novel, The Rook, and it’s not due out until February 2015. I may very well die of anticipation before then! Y’all know that I’m going to do anything I can to get an advance copy of this into my hands, but we’re still a long while off from the official publication date, so for now I’m just impatiently waiting. For those who haven’t read The Rook yet, go get yourself a copy. Don’t be put off if you think the publisher’s blurb on it looks a little hokey, or if you’re “not really into sci-fi, supernatural stuff” – just pick it up and read. I forced this on my husband when we were traveling last year when he ran out of things to do. He’s not a big reader, but he finished it quickly and really liked it, and the other day I caught him re-reading it on our porch! (For reference, it’s hard enough to get him to read a book in the first place, I’ve never known him to re-read anything.) In short, highly recommend, and I’m sure the sequel will be every bit as fabulous. I particularly like that O’Malley didn’t keep naming the book(s) with the names of chess pieces/Chequay titles in an attempt to stick very closely to that theme, and from the description and interview’s I’ve read the whole thing is a little bit of a different take on things – to borrow a phrase from fashion, while the titles and styles may not “match” they certainly seem to “go” together. I think it will ultimately make this book and any potential future books much better to establish that flexibility right away, rather than waiting until a theme is played out and trying to fit it into a new plotline where it doesn’t make any sense.

Atlantia

Atlantia by Ally Condie – I’m not stalking this book nearly as hard as the other two, but I read a preview of it on NetGalley and it was really good. I read all three books of Condie’s Matched series (reviews here, here, and here) and while I liked them, the books were a bit predictable and a bit too similar to other things I’ve read – although I have to say, I really enjoyed the ending of that series, as it felt true to the dystopian genre without being too depressing. Atlantia, though, seems like a very original plot line, and it also strikes me as  book that won’t follow the female-teenage-heroine-in-a-love-triangle trope that I’m tired of. This title becomes available on October 28, 2014, so mark your calendars and look for my review!

The Gift of Power by Tamora Pierce – There isn’t a cover or plot synopsis for this title yet, but the expected publication is 2015, and I am a massive Tamora Pierce fan (except for Mastiff… can we just pretend that never happened? YEP. Ok, good.) She’s under contract to do a whole series about Numair, prior to his appearances in the Protector of the Small series or the Wildmage series (and thus, before his relationship with Daine.)

You know what else I can’t wait for?

 

My first giveaway!

The lovely staff over at St. Martin’s Press gave me a free copy of Murder at the Brightwell to review and asked if I’d like a second copy to give away. Silly question, right?! They offered to run the giveaway, but since this will be my first one, I wanted to throw in a few additional goodies for the winner. This title won’t be released for sale until October 14, 2014, but one lucky winner will get an advance copy as well as a few other little tidbits from yours truly. I’ll be posting a full review of Murder at the Brightwell along with the instructions for the giveaway on August 15th, so make sure you check back and enter!

Here’s a little sneak peek from my Instagram:

What is your favorite giveaway system? I’m leaning towards setting up something with Rafflecopter, but if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!